Monday 19 December 2011

Mother's on her soapbox again!

Today is the bicentenary of Charles Dickens’ birth. I may not aspire to be a modern day Dickens but I do have a Christmas tale to tell. When I was a little girl in the early fifties we didn’t have much money for fancy toys. We weren’t exactly the Cratchit family but there weren’t many luxuries. Instead we made things! We could have hours of pleasure with a pair of scissors and an old shopping catalogue, cutting out all the pretty clothes. Maybe my love of collage was born all those years ago? Sometimes when we needed entertaining my ever resourceful mother would cook a paste of flour and water on the stove to make glue and we would tear up old newspapers for papier mache. We’d paste the little squares of paper over a balloon to make a mask. Maybe distance lends enchantment but I remember those masks as being magical. Much better than anything you could buy from a shop. When the papier mache was dry we burst the balloon to release the mask, cut out holes for eyes and mouth and painted it with poster paint. Funny thing is I used much the same technique many years later when I did a City & Guilds’ course in Papercraft. Some things once learnt are never forgotten. This is one of the plates I made with a paper pulp technique.  

I graduated from poster paint to gorgeous acrylic inks and used them with abandon! 

When paint wants to run I just let it!
I really believe there is no greater satisfaction than to produce something beautiful with your own hands. All the better if that something is conjured from almost nothing! It’s the best therapy in the world.

This huge paper bowl is difficult to photograph - it was moulded over a giant lampshade.

And when there isn't enough pulp left to make a bowl you can use the last bits on scallop shells!

I realise I sound like one of those doddery old curmudgeons who witter on about the good old days and I don’t mean to. I am as enamoured of the high tech world we all live in as anyone else but the moral to this tale I suppose is that if we don’t continue to be creative with our hands and if we don’t share that magic, where will the next generation of artists come from? I am thankful to my mother for passing on her 'can do' attitude and her remarkable talents.
Lecture over - the soapbox is back in its corner and I'm off to make something lovely!

Thanks for reading this - Linda


  1. Love these, especially the first plate! I love a bit of papier mache, I'm currently working on a couple of things made with it.

  2. Thanks for that dickens of a tale. It was lovely imagining a little Linda in braids with scissors and a paste pot. I too have many fond memories of making things with paper, tape and crayons.

  3. Hi Chloe - I'd love to see what you're making!

    Hi Beth - apart from the braids bit I'm pretty much the same nowadays as then. Always up to my elbows in one vat or another!

  4. I was also a child of the 50's and my siblings and I made our gifts for relatives every year. We also made our own thank you notes, that went out before the New Year. Your post made me giggle. Not only did we create our gifts, but created on Christmas day. My Great Gram was from Warwickshire and she and my Gram would have the four of us at the table after we washed the dishes. One year there was watercolors, another year acrylics on boards. We learned to knit and crochet. They both believed in teaching hand arts and idle hands were the Devil's workshop. I look back on those Christmas evenings with much longing to have them both with me now. I cannot even imagine the fun we would have. Wishing you the Merriest of holidays.

  5. Ah, the memories, I too remember the flour paste glue my mother used to make for me as a child back in England. I would glue together match boxes into different objects then cover them with paper mâché, boats were always a favourite and little chests of drawers, with the box part sliding out as a drawer.
    Have a wonderful Christmas and thanks to you and Laura for all of the inspiration over the past year. Looking forward to seeing what you create in 2012.

  6. Marvellous!! Reading your blogpost, Linda and then the comments by the lovely ladies above takes me back too! I also had a creative mother whose motto was always "there's no such word as 'can't'" and I remeber it all with a warm fuzzy feeling. Papier maché, flour paste, poster paint, the lot!! Thanks everyone! - oh, and Linda, having met you at the Festival of Quilts and watching you on DMTV, you'll NEVER be one of those doddery old curmudgeons!!!!
    Merry Christmas - and THANK YOU for a fantastic DM year!!!

  7. Thanks for the memories. The big Sears-Roebuck catalog here in the U.S. was a favorite. Paper dolls and imaginary house furnishings--all at our fingertips!

  8. Your story reminded me of the Rainy Day Box I kept for my children when they were small. A large cardboard carton full of egg boxes, tissue paper, bits of string, old buttons and anything else useful, lived behind the sofa. The children were kept amused for hours glueing, painting and getting into a lovely creative mess.

  9. Love the story and the pieces I made a little shell just like those for my C&G classwork :)